medicare

Happy Tax Day!

Today is (federal) Tax Day. (Virginia income taxes are not due until May 1, although many prepare and pay both on this day.) Americans are working longer than ever to earn the money it takes to pay their share of local, state and federal taxes. Taxes now cost families more per year than the cost of their food, clothing and shelter combined!  If that doesn't overjoy you, than this might: It's where all your hard earned money is spent. Hint: Most of it went to pay for government "benefits." Draining away families' ability to take care of themselves at some point becomes a moral question when their government wastes the money taxed away from them, and then, like a junkie, goes into debt funding its addiction, only to hit up families for more taxes just to keep a step ahead of the collection enforcer.

Amy Payne of The Heritage Foundation explains the budget breakdown today at The Foundry Blog:

In 2013, the major entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care — consumed 49 percent of all federal spending. These programs, and interest on the debt, are on track to consume an even greater share of spending in future years, while the portion of federal spending dedicated to other national priorities will decline.

Major entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) gobbled up 49 percent, while more federal benefits took another 20 percent. These additional "income security" benefits include federal employee retirement and disability, unemployment benefits, and welfare programs such as food and housing assistance. Obamacare spending didn’t really kick in until 2014, so that will show up in next year’s breakdown.

Meanwhile . . .

National defense has been cut, while the major entitlements picked up an even larger percentage.

This chart from Heritage illustrates it plainly:

Where Does All the Money Go?

It's not that we oppose taxes. We oppose more than what is needed to pay for core government responsibilities and functions. We oppose going into debt and not only choking off economic prosperity now, but hanging that debt on future generations that won't have a say on the policies that assuredly will leave them with a country well past its world preeminence (if that hasn't happened already).

Along the way, currently, not only has the government become an addict, its policies have created dependency on countless families, tearing apart our social fabric and sense of community. What else to expect when one junkie pushes junk on the unsuspecting? Sobering, huh? Happy Tax Day!

In The Category Of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Tonight, I did my civic duty and attended my local elected official's townhall meeting. In true confession, it's been a long time since I’ve done so. I was disheartened, though not surprised, to see no more than 25 people in the room with the average age being 70. And then it happened.

A nice looking woman asked about the "sonogram" bill. My elected official handled it well but it began to spark emotion in her. To her credit, if she has emotion about these issues, it is wonderful she showed up to engage her legislator.

This woman was concerned about who pays for it and what happens when low income women need it. Upon being told that it is already routine practice at Planned Parenthood, there are free health clinics and most private insurance companies pay for it, she asked, "Would my insurance cover my abortion ultrasound? I’m not sure it would. Would Medicaid?" Then she continued to talk about how it was government overreach and government was stepping its foot right into her life. She also noted how if she wanted an abortion, she could get a sonogram if she wanted. Finally, after listening to all the concern about government mandating something that is going to cost her money, a kind lady next to her helped her out. "I'm sure that if you had to have an abortion Medicare would cover it. If someone over the age of 65 needs an abortion, it'll be covered."

This woman's next question was about the need for sidewalks because at nearly 80, she's worried about what happens when someone tells her she can't drive anymore.

It just goes to show how this year's media hysteria took rational people, fed them a bunch of falsehood and spun them all around.

ObamaCare Explained

A joke going around the Internet is more accurate than most highbrow, elitist, know-better-than-the-rest-of-us explanations, rationalizations and politicalizations of the (twice unconstitutionally-ruled) government takeover of healthcare:

Let's get this straight . . .

We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, rammed through by a Speaker who didn't know what was in it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a president who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury secretary who didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke! What the heck could possibly go wrong?

You have to admit . . . it's a lot clearer than those charts the Obama administration and Congressional libs rolled out to explain it.

 

Deception Reigns At Planned Parenthood

For an organization that has at the root of its business model the destruction of human life, it's not surprising that Planned Parenthood has had to resort to deception to defend itself after taking some of its worst PR hits in its history. But the more Americans learn about Planned Parenthood, the less they like. Purporting itself to be the arbitrators of "women’s health care," it has successfully siphoned more than $300 million a year of taxpayer dollars out of the economy. Planned Parenthood defenders in the General Assembly, Congress and the media are quick to claim that the majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are not abortion related. If you weren't paying attention you'd think that without your money being diverted to its coffers women would not have access to any health care.

That, of course, ignores the truth. Now, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson and many others are finally exposing Planned Parenthood for what it is — and what we've said it is all along. The organization has had to resort to deception and hiding behind the White House to protect its public financing.

Most recently, in the debate over federal funding for the nation's largest private supplier of abortion, Planned Parenthood apologists made the assertion that abortion amounts to only three percent of the organization's services (a claim we've heard over and over again in the General Assembly). For an organization that has at its core abortion and the politics of abortion, this claim makes no sense, yet politicians and pundits alike have puppeted the talking point.

According to Johnson, in an editorial she wrote for The Hill:

Planned Parenthood's claim that abortions make up just 3 percent of its services is also a gimmick. That number is actually closer to 12 percent, but strategically skewed by unbundling family planning services so that each patient shows anywhere from five to 20 "visits" per appointment (i.e., 12 packs of birth control equals 12 visits) and doing the opposite with abortion visits, bundling them together so that each appointment equals one visit. The resulting difference between family planning and abortion "visits" is striking.

Further proof of Planned Parenthood's emphasis on abortion is the directive that recently came down from Planned Parenthood's national headquarters mandating that all its affiliates provide abortions by 2013. In addition, its adoption referral number is appalling, and has been decreasing exponentially for years. Per Ms. Johnson:

. . . 98 percent of Planned Parenthood's services to pregnant women are abortion.

That's just the beginning. It also made the claim that it provides cancer screenings such as mammograms, but the truth is that it simply refers women to facilities that do mammograms, something any free clinic can do. No Planned Parenthood clinic has the equipment to do mammograms (of course, those would cost money, and based on what we've seen in the debate over abortion center regulations, safety is not a high priority for Planned Parenthood).

Of course, nearly every "service" provided by Planned Parenthood, with the exception of its primary money winner — abortion — can be done at free clinics and can be paid for through Medicaid or Medicare. There is absolutely no reason that an organization that has faced accusations ranging from targeting African Americans for abortion to covering up sexual abuse of underage girls should be subsidized by taxpayers. But you knew that already.

In Virginia, we have successfully defunded Planned Parenthood by exposing the money that was being diverted to its clinics. But this reminder seems fitting during tax season: Our federal government continues to provide more than one third of this political organization's budget with your tax dollars.

In Virginia, Planned Parenthood continues to advocate for more money, freedom from minor regulations, and against every single attempt at helping women make a better choice for their unborn children. If a proposal is going to reduce the number of abortions in Virginia, it is sure to oppose it, including funding successful abstinence education programs.

The good news is that this year, we were able to defeat Planned Parenthood over and over again. From passing abortion center safety regulations to abstinence funding to protecting taxpayers from underwriting abortion in Virginia’s health insurance exchange, to defeating its legislative agenda, Planned Parenthood suffered overwhelming defeats this year.

Let's pray we can build on this momentum!

Follow The Smart Money: Falling Obama Popularity And Political Rebuff Reflected In Stock Market Rise?

Kent Engelke is the chief economic strategist and managing director at Virginia-based Capitol Securities Management, and is one of the most quoted market experts in the country. His forecasts largely get it right. I get his daily Early Morning Commentary and today's had some compelling statistics that should alarm everyone. People, take heed. Using the stock market as the predictor it is, he asks why equities have experienced a rally of late. He posits a theory that investors think socialized medicine will not occur. He cites President Obama's own economic team's warnings of financial disaster if the deficit is not reduced substantially. (Of course, they always say that and spend and tax and print money anyway.)

But take this with more than a grain of salt:

The 2009 fiscal deficit was an astounding $1.4 trillion as spending increased from $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion while tax revenue fell from $2.5 trillion to $2.1 trillion. The debt is now at $12 trillion and is expected to grow by another $9 trillion over the next decade. [Dow Jones]

CBO is estimating spending on Medicaid and Medicare will grow over $700 billion over the next 10 years while health care legislation is conservatively estimated to add another $900 billion to the deficit. [Dow Jones]

But most alarming is this:

Incidentally and as per the Organization of Economic Corporation and Development today 42% of U.S. GDP is comprised of federal, state and local spending. Wow! We all know the efficiency of the government.

Mr. Engelke doesn't pontificate political often in his writings, so a letter devoted almost exclusively to our current situation is remarkable. He also notes that since the Obama administration, by general agreement (and even Saturday Night Live) "is steep in hype but low in accomplishments" and asks rhetorically whether the stock  market rally suggests "a backlash in government spending, perhaps even a reduction, because the President’s approval ratings are plummeting?"

According to the Rasmussen Report:

40% strongly disapprove of the president’s job performance. 27% strongly approve. Overall 47% approve of his actions while 53% disapprove, the second lowest ratings for this President. Fifty four percent oppose health care legislation while 42% approve it.

When a normally non-plussed and widely respected market strategist and economist goes to this length, something is up. The stock market often is an indicator of things not only financial, but societal, technological and political, among other trends. Looking at it strictly from a personal stock-holdings point of view doesn't paint the entire picture. You know what they say: Follow the money. Especially if it's smart money. Expect political changes shortly.

Reworking A Bad Plan Can Make It Worse (Or, The Son Of 3202 Rises)

The Special Tax Session of the General Assembly resumes tomorrow and anything can happen. Some capitol insiders are predicting the session could end by the end of the day, with nothing done. That would be good. Some think the House could pass some watered down Senate tax increase, send it back to Senate Majority Leader Dick "The People Will Pay" Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and his crowd down the hall, who will change it and take it to a conference committee, which would be dangerous enough. But others think that if anything gets out of the House, Senate Dems will pass it immediately and let Governor Tim Kaine amend it to include all the extra taxes his heart desires (we'd say that would be Christmas in July for the liberals, except many don't believe . . . oh, never mind) and send it back for an up or down vote. If that version passes, it would be a Kaine victory at the expense (literally) of the public; a taxpayer loss. If nothing happens, believe your bottom dollar (that may be all you have left right now) that the governor and the Dems will demonize conservatives as not wanting to address the transportation "crisis." 

They better be careful for what they ask. It may be anecdotal, but evidence is the public, across all lines, doesn't seem to have much of an appetite for tax increases when gas is at $4.00 a gallon and all the ripple effect cost increases it is causing. Senator Saslaw during the regular session was fond of saying that his gas tax increase would cost the equivalent of one Big Mac meal per year. Actually, it was closer to a Ruth Chris dinner, but regardless, most families don't even have a Big Mac to cut back right now.

Not only that, but his proposal in the winter was a 5-cent increase over five years. Now, I guess because he wants us to cut back on apple turnovers, too, his bill would increase the gas tax by six cents over six years (SB 6009). That's a 35-percent increase. It doesn't appear as if this will pass. The House Republican leadership let it come to the floor in a procedural move in committee to force House Dems to vote on recordin anticipation of next year's House elections. The money is on many House Dems getting cold feet on this one.

However (there's always a "however"), the House GOP doesn't want to get left out of the game. They want to be sure no one can claim they have no ideas themselves, so instead of no ideas they are proposing old and bad ideas. They want to "fix" the aspect of last year's transportation package (HB 3202) that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. This new package, HB 6055, patroned by Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News) is more complex, but is also harmful to taxpayers and the economy. Its main feature is to give local governments in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia taxing authority in certain areas so as to spend it themselves for transportation, rather than the original, and unconstitutional, law that let unelected boards tax and spend. (To be fair, the original bill passed by the House in 2007 was to give local governments the authority; the governor amended it to give it to the unelected boards, and bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly concurred.)

While many legislators may make the political calculation that by "simply fixing" last year's plan (by voting for HB 6055) Virginians won't consider it a vote to raise taxes, they may be calculating wrong. People want the General Assembly to make hard decisions instead of asking for more money from families — again. Smart citizens know fixing a bad plan often makes it still worse. 

Among the various taxes in HB 6055 is one particularly heinous tax — a $.40 per $100 increase in the "grantor's tax" in Northern Virginia. This is a tax home sellers pay at closing. As home sales continue to plummet, and some of those sales are "short" (sold for less than what is owed on it), such a tax is reckless. 

Earlier this month, while detailing the state's current financial picture, Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner revealed a devastating downward trend in home sales to the House Appropriations Committee. At the time, several Republicans appropriately drilled Secretary Wagner regarding Governor Kaine's transportation proposal that included a grantor's tax. It would be peculiar for those same legislators to agree to one now, but this is the General Assembly, after all. Regardless of whether the tax is introduced by Democrats or Republicans, the governor, the Senate or the House, the effect on the housing industry is the same — it will ensure a housing recession.

HB 6055 also includes a $20 increase in the car inspection fee in Hampton Roads, an extra $100 fee on those who receive their first drivers license (in N.Va.), a hotel tax (N.Va.) and a rental car tax (in both areas), among others. Americans For Tax Reform mailed each legislator who signed its No Tax Pledge that a vote to pass the tax-increasing buck to localities is still a tax increase and violates the pledge.

Four years ago, then-Governor Mark Warner cited education, health and public safety to pass the largest tax hike in the Commonwealth's history. Apparently, in 2004, transportation was no longer the "crisis" Warner had said it was in 2002 when he tried unsuccessfully to pass regional sales tax hikes for transportation via referenda in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Now, Governor Kaine and some allies in the legislature have decided to dust off the transportation "crisis" to raise taxes. This action comes only a few months after they proposed raiding the Transportation Trust Fund for non-transportation expenditures.

Some of the same lawmakers who opposed a constitutional amendment restricting the Transportation Trust Fund to transportation-only spending now support a tax hike.  Even Governor Kaine, prior to his election, endorsed a "lock-box" to secure transportation funds from general fund spending and tax increases. Three years later, he has done nothing to support efforts to secure one. So what we're left with is a thinly veiled attempt to raise taxes on Virginia's families simply to raise money, not specifically for transportation. 

Besides that, it appears HB 6055 is more flexible than a Russian gymnast. Specific projects are to be carried out "in consultation with members of the General Assembly" — whatever that might mean. Sadly, the level of linguistic complexity required to raise some taxes in some areas, that affect only some people in order to fix some transportation needs, all while appearing as if no taxes are being raised, makes for a legislative nightmare.     

The bottom line is that for over a decade the General Assembly has bowed to the powerful education union and funded public education incorrectly, refused to reduce spending in pet projects, and counted on Virginians to pony up under the threat of disaster. If this mentality doesn't change now, in difficult economic times, what will it be like in good times? Believe me, it will be Bonnie and Clyde all over again, with a new crisis (health care or Medicare, perhaps?) and guess who they think is the bank?

The good news is that this can be stopped. Many legislators are being pressured by big-time lobbyists of big businesses who will benefit from government spending, from the teachers union which wants to ensure their portion of the pie isn't touched, and other special interest groups. But when enough concerned voters let their senators and delegates know enough is enough, it gives them the courage to resist the special interest pressures (click here to contact them). Instead of raising taxes, it is time for them to get some new ideas, such as comprehensive spending and budget reform.